They are small bit players in your life, doing their bit and vanishing into the wings. You see them and yet, you don’t. Let’s start from the home and see how many people flit across unnoticed. The newspaper man. The milkman. The security guard. The liftman. The postman. The scavenger. The cab driver. The shop assistant. The guy who irons your clothes. The deliveryman. The traffic cop. The parking attendant. The theater usher. The booking office clerk. The flower seller. The bus conductor. The petrol bunk attendant. The pizza delivery guy. The vegetable vendor. The repairman.The copy machine girl. The hospital nurse.
Everyman and woman. We know so little about what goes on in their lives. What motivates and drives them. At a focus group session trying to understand the impulses of children buying cycles, there was a revealing pattern. The children were grouped according to their parents’ earning capacity. The first group of children where the parents were security guards and day workers were asked what they wanted for their birthday. They wanted pencils and erasers. The next group, where the parents were in the middle-income group asked for things like bags and books. Only among the children who came from relatively comfortable backgrounds did children ask for bicycles. It was almost as if the children were adjusting their dreams to what their parents could afford. They did not ask for something their parents would find hard to buy.
The bottom of the pyramid that CK Prahlad eloquently named, is where the untapped market is. The differences are in terms of 50 paise and 1 rupee. There are now snacks priced at 2 rupees for sachets. The pickle manufacturers have little packets at 50 paise that caters to just one segment – that of the heavy duty drinkers who want something tangy and hot to drown their searing shots of alcohol. It’s life lived day to day. Not even week to week or month to month. It’s hard to imagine that in a world of insurance that assesses mortality and risk over a 20 and 30-year span. Or home loan EMIs that stretch for the same number of years. The relatively well-off paying a part of a loan in a month that most of the invisible people earn in a year. Like the children in the focus group, do the invisible ones just keep a tight lid on their dreams and simply hope for the best all through their lives?